Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer REVIEW

I am always on the look out of new books to share with my fourth graders so you can imagine my delight when I was invited to review a copy of Ali Maier's Mom Made Us Write This in the Summer.

 I dove into reading the second this book arrived (for free) at my doorstep.  It didn't take long to realize that this book would be a huge hit with my students.

So what is it about?  A sister and brother (twins) are forced by their mother to write in a journal together over the summer.  There are 12 entries and each twin takes a turn writing their perspective of a specific event or topic as well as commenting on their sibling's entry.  The font for the twins, Maggie & Max, stand out so you can easily tell who is writing.  Maggie's is lighter, my "girlie" and has dots the letter i with a heart.  Max's font is bolder and more masculine. 
My students immediately fell in love with Max's sense of humor and Maggie's quick wits. Both are lovable characters who hook you into the storyline.
This book lends itself well for introducing journal writing to your class, as well as analyzing perspectives.  There is an amazing website that accompanies the book (and future books) containing helpful links, resources, and fun stuff for children, adults, parents, and teachers.

I began reading this book with my class last week and can't wait to complete it before Christmas break.

Check back in a few weeks to see how I use this amazing book in my classroom and for a chance to win a copy for yourself!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cheers to my 1st TPT Major Milestone - Pin it to Win it Contest

Yippee!!!!  After 2 1/2 years of hard work, perseverance, and persistence, my lil' ole TPT store has reached it's first major milestone!

***Clipart in the above graphic is from the amazing Krista Wallden!***

Want a chance to win one of the products from my TPT store?

Help me celebrate!!!

Pin your favorite product (that you wish to receive).

Then visit me at my Facebook Page and tell me what you pinned.

Comment with your Pin link and your email.

You will have 1 week to enter.  I will announce the winners next Sunday, November 2nd.

I will choose 1 winner for every 5 entries.

1 entry per person.  No bundles please - they are too big to email!

Thank you for all your help and support!


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Assessing Student Writing with a 4-Point Rubric

I have been looking for a quick and easy way to grade student writing this year, given the fact that we no longer have an explicit writing block built into our schedule.  (You can read more about how I am weaving writing into reading centers here.)

I wanted a rubric that would mirror NYS's 4-point expository writing rubric used to score extended responses on the NYS ELA test.

I wanted students to be familiar with this rubric so that they would be well prepared for their state test.

However, I was having a little trouble finding a child friendly version of this rubric.  One that I could use on the fly with multiple genres because lets face it, there just isn't enough time in the beginning of the school year.

So, I came up with this.

I used the same categories, I just simplified them and organized my rubric as a checklist.

In the beginning of the year, I plan on checking off each box for student strengths, leaving them blank if that specific area was a challenge, and then counting the checks to get a quick score out of 4-points.

As we progress through the year, and dig deeper into the greater meaning of each rubric category, I plan on giving students a score of 1-4 for each category.  This will provide me with a total of up to 16 points which I will then divide by 4 to get my usual score out of 4 points.

Throughout the week students have been working on writing during reading centers.  On Friday, I have been providing them with a little time to select their favorite piece, edit & revise it, and submit it for scoring.

To submit their writing, I have them insert their favorite piece into the plastic sleeves I placed in their purple writing folders.

When I score their writing, I just slip the rubric into their writing sleeve with the corresponding piece.  That way they can easily see how they did.  However, I have not written on or marked up their wonderful writing piece.

I left just enough room along the side to jot down a few notes, compliments, or suggestions for students.

I've also placed a large copy of the rubric in the back of each folder for students to refer to when selecting a piece to be assessed.

I hope these writing folders will serve as a wonderful portfolio of their writing in fourth grade.

Snag a free copy of my writing rubric here.

How are you scoring writing this year?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Hair, New Clothes, New Attitude: Stitch Fix Review #3

The infamous back-to-school season is finally upon us.  My classroom is clean, organized, and ready for 22 amazing 4th graders who will arrive for the first time next week....and I am spruced up as well with new hair, new clothes (Stitch Fix of course) and a new attitude!  I am looking and feeling confident, ready to take on the new school year with class and a little sass.

My 3rd Stitch Fix box arrived last week and words can not describe my excitement.

I had asked again for a variety of colors and patterns.  I hoped for dresses, shirts, and cardigans that would be comfy, cute, yet professional.  

Here is what I got in my 3rd Fix:

41Hawthorn Beatrice Exposed Zipper Dolman Top - $58
First off, I love 41Hawthorn. The only place you can find their clothes is through Stitch Fix.  I received a similar Dolman Top previously but returned it because I didn't like the cream color.  This top looks much better in black.  Ugh, darker colors are much more forgiving on me.

This top has 3/4 sleeves and a cute little zipper on the back.  The zipper adds a little pi-zazzle.

Final verdict - KEPT!

Next on the list . . .

Papermoon Tina Striped Open Cardigan - $28

Yes, you read that correct folks, $28 for a Stitch Fix cardigan!  Can you believe it?  I don't have any cardigans that are this color, or that have stripes so this piece caught my eye immediately.

The fabric is light weight.  The sleeves felt a little tight at first but upon reviewing the photos of myself wearing it, I think it looks just fine.

Final Verdict - KEPT!

The 3rd piece I pulled out of the box was . . .

Gilli Nikky Striped Faux Wrap Jersey Dress - $58

I loved this dress immediately.  Navy looks great on me, the stripes were cute.  The fabric was soft.

Once I put it on I - DID - NOT want to take it off.  Not only is this dress extremely comfortable but it is form fitting, dressy enough to wear to school, and relaxing enough to keep wearing once at home.  Heck, I would sleep in this thing if my husband wouldn't think it were weird. 

Final Verdict - KEPT!  (Of course!!!)

My fourth stitch fix piece was . . .

41Hawthorn Breyson Split-Neck Tab-Sleeve Knit Top - $48

This bright pink caught my immediately.  The fabric is soft and clings a little so I chose to wear a tank top underneath.  It is comfortable yet professional enough to wear to school. It is cute and modest.

I absolutely adore the sleeves on this top.  There is a little button that blends in so you can choose to roll the sleeves up on a warm day, or leave them down if it gets colder.

Final Verdict - KEPT!!!

Last but not least, my fifth piece was . . . 

Gilli Madyson Chevron Print Maxi Dress - $74

This maxi dress is absolutely gorgeous.  I love how the top is black and form fitting and the bottom has a cute pattern and is wavy and relaxed.

I usually try to find dresses with pockets and longer sleeves so that I can hide my Omnipod Insulin Pump and my Dexcom Glucose Monitor.  However, now that I've had Type 1 Diabetes for a little over 2 years I am becoming more confident and more of an advocate. You wouldn't believe how many people see a tubeless insulin pump and have NO CLUE what it is.  Well, check out my amazing Stitch Fix dress and the insulin pump.  Now you know!

Final Verdict?  - KEPT!!!

So, if you've made it through my entire post then you'll have noticed that YES,  I KEPT IT ALL!  I guess it's true, 3rd times the charm!

Want to learn more about Stitch Fix?  Check out what I got my 1st and 2nd Stitch Fix reviews.

My next Fix is scheduled to arrive on my birthday!  Interested in trying Stitch Fix out for yourself?  The best birthday present you could give me would be to use my referral link here!

....and while you are at it, check out some other Stitch Fix Reviews at A Whimsicle Life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Implementing Writing with NO Writing Block

I posted a few days ago about writing, and my lack of time this school year for it.  Yes, writing is integrated throughout our other subject areas, but this school year we will not have an official time set aside just for writing.

One thing is for sure, I am not going to let time stand in the way of free and fun writing in my classroom.

So, in my desperate attempt to infuse some extra time for students to hone their writing craft and free write about topics of their choice and genres of their choice I found Joey Udovich's amazing Interactive Writing Center.

Upon reading about the center on Joey's blog, and previewing it on TPT I fell in love and purchased it immediately.

I printed and laminated it for free at my local teacher center.  (Check to see if you have one in your county, you might be pleasantly surprised.)  To say this file is H-U-G-E is an understatement.  Joey has literately thought of it all.  It comes with teacher directions, photographs, word wall cards, examples of each writing topic, tips and cheat sheets for students, and printables, just to name a few.

Not wanting to overwhelm my students, I picked my 3 favorite writing genres:  a summary, a story, and a song.  I plan to introduce each writing genre during the first week (3 days) of school.  After the introduction, students will be free to choose which ever of the three writing genres they wish to work on.  I will add additional genres throughout the year.

When do I plan to use this writing center?  Hmmmm, morning work, emergency sub plans, as a finished early activity, or once in a while during AIS.  I also hope to be able to use it as one of our centers during guided reading, but that is still to be determined.

I posted this lovely sign on the center bulletin board in hopes that students will check their writing before deeming it complete.  You can download a FREE copy of this poster here.  Print on 11" x 17" paper for best results.

I purchased quite a few black egg crates from Walmart last year and had an extra one not in use so I threw it over in the writing center to assist with organization.

How will students organize their folders?

So what about student reflection, grading, and data?  I plan on setting aside time each week for students to select their best writing piece of the week.  They will spruce it up a little bit before submitting it. Here is how I plan to organize their writing pieces within their folder:

I plan on grading their chosen writing piece each weekend using a 4-point rubric similar to ones used to score their writing for their NYS ELA test.  I will use my noticings to form writing needs groups to meet with during AIS or when we work on writing about reading.

Will you still have a writing block this year?  If not, how do you plan on squeezing in writing?

Want to win some super sweet back-to-school writing utensils for your classroom?  Enter my BiC Back-to-School Giveaway before it is too late.  Only one day left!

Oh, and last but not least, some of the cute graphics that appear in this post are from the amazing Krista Wallden.  

She is hosting a week full of freebies, dollar deals, discounts, and giveaway!  Be sure to check it out.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back to School with BIC - Giveaway!

With the new school year finally upon us I thought I would take a little time away from the chaos and share one of my absolute FAVORITE brand of products . . . BiC!

Now, you know I only share with you products that I think are fantastic and that I use in my own classroom and home.  So, when BiC contacted me to review some of their products for free a 2nd time I jumped at the offer.

BiC's main goal this year is to encourage students to write more often, because writing is by far one of the most important learning tools for a child's academic success.  With that in mind, BiC has launched the "Fight for Your Write" campaign to reinforce how fun and empowering writing can be.  This campaign comes at a perfect time.  For example, our writing block has been removed this school year and there is a strong emphasis on keyboarding skills rather than cursive.  Could handwriting disappear from our curriculum?  BiC's campaign offers information about writing and tips from literacy expert Pam Allyn to help parents, caregivers, and students make a commitment to write more often.  They are advocating for handwriting to remain not only in our classrooms but a big part of a child's home life as well.

Now that you are ready to write you need the right tools!  BiC's new back-to-school products are sure to make writing fun, inspiring students to confidently express their thoughts through written word.

This year, BiC has launched an amazing line of children's writing instruments designed specifically to help children learn to write:
  • I love BiC Kids Mechanical Pencils.  Mechanical pencils are often deemed useless once the lead runs out.  However, these not only come with a big eraser but a lead refill with six leads.
  • BiC Kids Pen includes stickers to personalize the pen and comes in purple or green.  Now when we find a random pen on the floor students will be able to quickly identify it's correct owner based on the student created design.
  • Looking for a child friendly stylus?  BiC Kids Stylus is the perfect tool for small hands and will be perfect for navigating our class Kindles.  

I love BiC's Kids line of writing utensils and I have truly never seen anything like them.  BIC also has fabulous products for teachers too.  Here are a few of my favorites:
  • BiC 4-Color is an amazing pen that provides the convenient ability to choose from 4 ink colors at the click of a button .  I love creating lesson plans that are cute and colorful (for my own simple pleasure).  With BIC 4-Color I can have the variety in color I'd like with only 1 pen.  This pen comes in basic colors, metallic colors, and in a mini size.

  • Looking for mechanical pencils?  BiC has a new Xtra Shine pencil that contains a fun holographic design.  
  • I was skeptical at first about BiC's Magic Marker Brand Dry Erase Markers because I've always been a Expo Girl.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by the rich quality of their colors and the ease of writing they provide.  A+
  • Last but not least, BiC Wite-Out brand Zap!  This is a definite must have when you are a teacher.  Make a mistake?  Zap it out with the convenience of correction tape in trendy neon designs.  

Want to add some new BiC items to your classroom supplies?  Want to try out BiC's new line?  Well your in luck!  BiC has offered to giveaway 1 of their back-to-school product sets to one lucky reader.    Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win.  (U.S. only, 18+ please).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The count down to my first day of school has begun.  Check back in a few weeks to see how I am using all these great BiC products in my classroom.